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Bill 148 Update: Bill 47 Passes, and More Changes Coming in Bill 57 and the “FES”

Reading Time 5 minute read

Labour Employment and Human Rights

Bill 47 is Now Law

On Wednesday, November 21, 2018, the Ontario Legislative Assembly passed Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open For Business Act, 2018. We previously outlined some of the main features of Bill 47 in Bill 148 Update: New Regulations and Bill 47 Public Consultations Announced. The original Bill 47 passed with very few amendments. Of the changes made before passing, the most notable was that the MPPs on the committee overseeing Bill 47 removed a proposed new power for the Ontario Labour Relations Board to amend bargaining units where those bargaining units were no longer appropriate for collective bargaining.

The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario gave Royal Assent to Bill 47 upon its passing. As a result, the Bill 47 changes to the Labour Relations Act, 1995 came into effect on November 21, 2018, and the Bill 47 changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 will come into effect on January 1, 2019. Those subject to current applications before the Ontario Labour Relations Board for employee lists, first contract mediation-arbitration, card check certification in the security, temporary help agency, home care/community services or building services sectors, or remedial certification, may wish to seek legal advice as soon as possible given Bill 47's coming into force.

In addition to passing Bill 47, the provincial government filed new regulations on October 24, 2018 which will result in the penalties for contravening the posting and records keeping requirements of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 being decreased on January 1, 2019 from:

  • a fine of $350 for a first offence to $250;
  • a fine of $700 for a second offence in a three year period to $500; and
  • a fine of $1,500 for a third, or subsequent offence in a three year period, to $1,000.

The Government of Ontario is also soliciting further input on proposed new employment regulations here.

Bill 57 and the 2018 Fall Economic Statement

And that's not all the government has been up to. On Thursday, November 15, 2018, the Government of Ontario delivered its Fall Economic Statement, or "FES", an annual tradition. On the same day, Bill 57, the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018, was introduced in the Legislative Assembly for the purposes of implementing several of the initiatives announced in the FES.

Outlined in this year's FES were several initiatives or pledges by the new government which will be of interest to Ontario employers, including:

1. changing the implementation date for the Pay Transparency Act from January 1, 2019, to an indefinite future date to be chosen by the government. Some features of the Pay Transparency Act were set to take effect on January 1, 2019, including requirements that:

  • all public job postings (including online postings) required a stated salary range; and
  • employers were barred from inquiring about job candidates' past income levels. 

The change to the Pay Transparency Act implementation date is part of the omnibus Bill 57, and will be expected to become law prior to the December holiday break of the Legislative Assembly.

For those familiar with the machinations at Queens Park, making such a change to the Pay Transparency Act likely indicates that the new government is not interested in having the Pay Transparency Act come into force at all;

2. changing the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, by way of Bill 57, by:

  • making several changes to the interest arbitration process; and                                                                         
  • permitting professional firefighters to also act as volunteer firefighters in other communities, without reprisal (by employers or unions). 

Given the current Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 closely resembles interest arbitration legislation for other sectors (police, health care, etc.), this change could serve as a model for significant future changes in those sectors as well;

3. exempting all employees of the Crown, of Crown agencies, or of an authority, board, commission or corporation whose members are appointed by the Crown, from the hours of work and overtime provisions of the Employment Standards Act, 2000. In fact, prior to announcing this initiative in the FES, the Government of Ontario had already put this feature into law by filing unannounced regulations exempting Crown employees from these provisions, effective October 24, 2018;

4. exempting Ontario Hockey League ("OHL") players from the requirements of the Employment Standards Act, 2000. The new provincial government has already acted on this commitment, putting in place a standalone regulation which exempts "a player on a major junior ice hockey team" from the Employment Standards Act, 2000 if the player is eligible to receive a scholarship from the player's team or league for post-secondary education "for each hockey season the player plays". There are no other parameters set for the conditions for the scholarship, nor is there a required value for any scholarship;

5. increasing the Employer Health Tax exemption level from the first $450,000 in payroll up to the first $490,000 in payroll;

6. launching a review of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. The details of this review are not yet clear;

7. reviewing all tribunals under the purview of the Ministry of the Attorney General, including the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Details of this review are not yet clear;

8. assisting the University sector to establish jointly sponsored pension plans;

9. affirming that children under the age of 25 with private drug plan coverage will be exempted from the government's OHIP+ prescription coverage. Given the Government of Ontario's OHIP+ plan will cover those under 25 without coverage, employers may wish to review any ongoing prescription coverage for employees' dependent children to see if this is still necessary; and

10. extending alcohol and cannabis sales to private retailers, which will require additional staff training for retailers.

The new provincial government has been active in reshaping provincial employment and labour laws and responsibilities, and we will continue to monitor their progress and new initiatives that may be of interest.

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